Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

Turkish views on 'coup' charges

The recent arrests of 31 military officers charged over an alleged plot to provoke a coup in Turkey have increased tensions between the secular military and the Islamist-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

According to opinion polls, the armed forces, who have a past history of overthrowing elected governments, are Turkey's most trusted institution and are seen as the guardian of secularism.

Here, ordinary people in Turkey voice their concerns about the volatile situation and their convictions on who should be the guardian of democracy in Turkey.

Ayse Sarici, 39, food engineer, Tekirdag
Ayse Sarici

There are so many rumours going around that frighten me. Too many generals and high-level military people are taken into custody, which seems quite abnormal.

I think that the governing party, which has a religious agenda, wants to suppress the military, which wants to make the country as secular as possible. This is a deliberate attempt by the government to weaken the military.

It's OK for someone in the UK to argue that the military should be separated from politics. But if you are in a country where the majority of people are Muslim and where Islam can interfere with social life, that's a different story.

The government needs to be careful not to push the military further, as this may backfire

If it wasn't for Ataturk, Turkey would be very similar to Pakistan. So many years on, we are just as vulnerable and we will be vulnerable for as long as religion plays a strong influence in politics.

The military should be strong. Maybe not as strong as it is now, especially on the grounds that they were against the democratic reforms giving more rights to the Kurdish minority.

Although I don't like this government at all - and I like the opposition even less - I have to admit that they've done a great deal of good things for our prospects of joining the EU, and for the Kurdish and Armenian minorities.

But they have to understand that the majority of the Turkish people have a very high trust in the military. I think the government needs to be very careful not to push the military further, as this may backfire.

Yusuf Nebhan Aydin, 27, businessman, Istanbul
Yusuf Nebhan Aydin

I am against any plots to overthrow governments. No-one should regard themselves as superior to democracy. Only the citizens of a country should have the right to decide who rules them.

The military does not trust its citizens. Especially when a right-wing party comes into power, the secular establishment always starts to seek anti-democratic ways to undermine the government.

It has continuously meddled in politics since the establishment of modern Turkey in 1923. It has ignored democratic principles of freedom, human rights and civil liberties. This is unacceptable and unjustifiable.

Secularists claim that the government has a hidden Islamist agenda, but this is just paranoia

The army officers have always deemed themselves untouchables. And they thought this would go forever. But for the first time in Turkish history, a civilian government is trying to keep the military out of politics.

The military should understand that it should keep its hands off politics. Democracy is the only thing Turkey needs. For this reason, the crackdown on the military is badly needed for Turkey's democratisation.

Turkey is changing and becoming a place where people feel more comfortable, free and happy. Secularists claim that the government has a hidden Islamist agenda, but this is just paranoia. What the AKP has achieved in economic, social and political areas, staunch secularists couldn't achieve for many years.

Salih Taysun, 24, IT analyst, Istanbul
Salih Taysun

I grew up in a leftist Kurdish family. My father was tortured during the 1980 coup, when he was 21. My mother went to prison for being a leftist political activist at the age of 49.

I welcomed the recent arrests because I believe our country must deal firmly with actions against democracy. The army is still the most trusted institution, according to recent polls, and it was a taboo until recently to criticise the military forces in our ultra-nationalist country.

The guardians of secularism should be the people, not the army

However, things are different now. People see that past, US-backed coups damaged the country so much. Many of our intellectuals were tortured and the leftist opposition was almost destroyed.

Now I believe men with guns must be left out of politics, we must trust and protect our democracy. Secularism is very important for modernising our country, but the guardians of secularism should be the people, not the army.

The majority of people in Turkey do not want our country to become Iran or Afghanistan. Our government is still too far away from making democratic reforms, but I don't believe they have a secret agenda. They are just opportunist and populist.

Whatever they are, we must respect them as our elected government. And yes, they will be overthrown, but this will be done in the next election by the power of our votes, not guns.

Kayihan Kabadayi, 62, retired civil aviation chief, Istanbul
Kayihan Kabadayi

It's not pardonable to look favourably towards military interventions into the political workings of the country. But the present situation is far from it.

The government has been trying for a long time to create artificial tensions for their benefit and it seems the military is their favourite target.

The past coups can be blamed more on civilian rather than military perpetrators. This nation has suffered enough from military coups and civilians who have caused them to happen. Nobody wants coups anymore.

The interesting thing about the current situation is the ruling party's determination to turn a story of a military coup into a wealth of votes and support in the next elections.

They know that there is no single achievement in the eyes of the people, for which it would be worth electing them again.

So many people are now in jail for an unimaginable period without knowing what they are charged with.

Who can say whether this government is sincere in its wish to establish a union with Europe while innocent people, civilian or military, are collected randomly overnight and stacked up between prison walls without an opportunity to defend themselves!

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